23-Jun-2012 -- As I was in the area for the annual T3G Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS event, an institute where we focus on the use of spatial technologies, including GIS and GPS, to analyze and make sense of our world and how to teach with these tools, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. However, I was so busy with the institute all week, and even though the institute included a field trip, I had not been able to make my own field trip. Finally on the way to the airport where I would fly out of southern California, the opportunity arose. No matter that the airport was in the opposite direction of the confluence. My goal on this trip was to test my hypothesis: That the from-the-east approach to the confluence, over the ridge, from View Drive, would be the absolute fastest way to get to and from the point.
Somehow off of I-10 heading east, I got onto Oak Glen Road instead of my goal, which was Wildwood Canyon Road. But no matter--it was my first time as it wound up to the high ground at the east side of Oak Glen, which is beautiful and dotted with family attractions, working farms offering tours, and apple orchards. The weather was very pleasant too, though a bit on the hot side. However, I kept driving and in not too long of a time, was on the east end of Wildwood Canyon Road. I descended to Oak Mesa Drive and drove south to Vista View, where I ascended a steep road which eventually became View Drive. As I had anticipated, I would park at the west end of the road, the highest part of the road. I made doubly sure the emergency brake was set, got out, and looked around. A sprinkler was watering the vacant lot on the south end of this dead-end road, which was odd, because there was only a patch of dirt that it was watering. No Trespassing signs marked the driveway to the southwest, but no matter, as I was interested in the almost-hidden lane to the northwest. Donning hat, sunscreen, and taking the two water bottles I had purchased in Redlands, I quickly set out.
I was swallowed up by southern California vegetation before the trail, which was actually a four wheel drive road for the first part of it, ascended the ridge into the chaparral. As I had anticipated, I hiked up to the south side of the house that sits atop the ridge, which is flanked by a wind turbine and an array of solar panels. The air was becoming very hot; about 90 F but I have been up here when it has been hotter. Almost no breeze was blowing. Maybe I should have purchased more water. Fortunately I was soon on top of the ridge, and after a few hundred meters, gingerly descended the very steep west side. I managed to film a video on my way down without falling, but it wasn't easy. The view ahead of me was magnificent although smoggy. I came to the place where I needed to leave the trail, and promptly fell down twice. One was a fairly bad fall. It turned out that I left a bit too early and was not on my old familiar side-ridge. No matter--I was soon in the ravine and climbing up the slippery other side, which was the south-facing slope where the confluence lies.
What has happened every time at this confluence is that the number of satellites drops off when near the bottom of the ravine. Hence the confluence itself becomes quite elusive. After about 15 minutes, I zeroed out the latitude, and then the longitude, and called it a success. I saw no people and no animals, though I did see a few birds soaring far above. I have only found the geocache here one solitary time on my several visits. Here it is very difficult to maintain one's footing, because the bare ground was sandy and eroding, and the grassy areas were very slippery. I hiked back to the ravine and up the other side, managing to get a scrape from one of the thorny bushes as I did so.
Still conserving my water, there was not a cloud in the sky, and I was very thankful to have had the chance to test my new route hypothesis. Climbing was easier than descending, except for the exertion part, and once atop the high ridge, I filmed a few movies near the house, discussing renewable energy. I gingerly descended the east side trail, not able to do a circular route this time, but needing to prove my hypothesis that this was the shortest and most efficient route to the confluence, I pressed on. When I emerged onto View Drive, it was like another world--neat lawns, houses, different vegetation, and the sprinkler still watering the dirt. The difference is always so startling. I had the foresight to had brought a different shirt to change into, but my shoes still had sand and dirt in them when I went through security at LAX a few hours later. My total round trip time came in according to Runkeeper at 1 hour and 25 minutes, with a distance of 1.84. It was just a bit longer than this, because my phone was not able to get a GPS signal for the first 100 meters or so of the hike.
And so to all future confluence seekers to this point: Yes, this route from the east is definitely the shortest and fastest to the point. It is steeper than the west approach, but can be accomplished in about 40 minutes less time. All of my approaches from the west have required over 2 hours round trip hiking. It took me about 5 confluence visits to this spot to reach this conclusion, and now that I had done so, would I return? I am not certain. I have enjoyed the winter expeditions here a bit more. This is one of the nicest hikes in the area, but it would definitely be more pleasant just to remain on the ridge trail, or one of the many other ridge trails in the area. The trail from the ridge east of the confluence and descending to the west is very steep, and one can easily slip and fall, and going off trail, one encounters sharp plants which can slash and cut unprotected skin and shred clothing. I may not return, but one never knows. The important thing: Get out there and explore the Earth!